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Last Minute Christmas To-Do’s

19 Dec

It’s Not Too Late!

OK, it is just a week before Christmas and you are not ready.

Where do you start?

What do you do?

busy christmas

Before you throw your hands up and surrender, stop for a minute and evaluate what you CAN get done to make this holiday memorable. Here is a step-by-step guide on guide you through so you get the basics done before the holiday.

santa - xmas list

Make a List and Check it Twice

The first thing you should do is make a list of what you need to do. Let’s face it, you don’t have time to run around like a chicken with your head cut off!  Every minute counts and the more organized you are, the more productive you will be.

I am including a copy of a last minute To-Do list to be sure you get the basics done.

last minute - decor

Last Minute Decor

It’s not too late to make the house look festive

There are just a few simple steps (ok, except the step abut putting up the tree) that can be done in just a few minutes of your time.

Hang Wreath on Door – 5 minutes – tops

Hang Stockings – another 5 minutes

Candles in the Windows – 10-15 minutes – depending on how many windows you have in your house…

Set up Tree – whether real or artificial, this is a ‘must do’ for the holiday! Although this isn’t a 5 minute project, setting up a tree this weekend is a perfect opportunity to spend time with family

Cookies for Santa – don’t forget to put the cookies out for Santa! And a glass of milk! And don’t forget carrots for the reindeer!

Gifts Under the Tree – the final touch to make Christmas morning special

last minute - errands

Last Minute Errands To-Do

The better you are organized when leaving the house, the more effective your errands will be. Before you leave the house, make sure you take with you any coupons or lists you have. One of the biggest time-savers I have found is being able to buy stamps AND gift cards for many retailers right at the grocery store. So you may have to be a bit flexible when it comes to store selections or gift card amounts, but seriously, IT’S JUST A WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!!

Get Tree – chop one down, get one pre-cut at a lot, buy an artificial one – whatever you prefer

Pick Up Christmas Cards – if you ordered them online, swing by the retailer that is printing them for you

Shop for Gifts – If you live near a Wal-Mart or Target, you can seriously knock off a bunch of your list in these type of department stores…

Shop for Meals (don’t forget cookies for Santa & carrots for reindeer!) – Hmmm, one trip to the grocery store can help you with: food, beverages, items to include in a gift basket for a hostess, gift cards, stamps

last minute - correspondence

Last Minute Correspondence

Last Minute Correspondence For everyone that thought it was just way too later to properly wish your family & friends a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year – it’s not! The US Postal Service is working really hard to help folks spread their holiday cheer, but you need to ACT FAST so your wishes get there in time.

Christmas Cards – If you live near a store that offers a 1 hour photo service (Wal-Mart is my favorite for price, quality and speed) you can easily create a Christmas card in the comfort of your own home on their website. Don’t think you need to go through all the hassles of taking a picture of the kids all dressed up in their Holiday finest to get this card done. Lot’s of folks use family pictures from their vacation, or from when they cut down their tree, or any other time of the year when everyone looked happy. My standby holiday card includes a collage of my son playing basketball, baseball and football…

Facebook/Twitter Post wishing everyone a Merry Christmas – While Christmas cards can be sent to your closest family & friends, a lovely heartfelt post on Facebook or Twitter can reach more distant friends.

Thank you notes to staff – A must-do for this time of year. Taking a few moments to write a heartfelt card expressing the gratitude you have for your staff goes a long way for making them feel appreciated. The key here – handwritten notes. Your staff will know and appreciate that even at this busy time of year you took the time to focus on them.

Thank you notes to customers – Another must-do for this time of year. A heartfelt card expressing the gratitude you have for your customers is necessary to maintain relationships you have taken all year to build. If possible – handwritten notes to your largest customers. For companies with many, many customers, a printed card will have to do – if possible, a handwritten signature perhaps?

last minute - miscellaneous

Last Minute Miscellaneous Tasks

Last Minute Miscellaneous Tasks You could probably write a list of things you want to get done that is a mile long, but there is no sense getting caught up in the miniscule details that won’t let you enjoy your family time this holiday. Focus on the biggest things and be happy! Key words there – FOCUS and HAPPY!!!

Write up a menu and shopping list – remember, the better your list when leaving the house, the more productive your time will be while you are out and about

Wrap gifts – prioritize your gift wrapping by doing the gifts that need to be handed out first – teachers, bus drivers, staff – and then move on to the gifts for your hostesses and finally your family since those gifts will be given out last. And yes, you won’t be alone if you are wrapping gifts after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve!

Put out cookies for Santa & carrots for reindeer – don’t forget to do this before the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve! You don’t want to give anyone an excuse to get out of bed on Christmas Eve because they realize they forgot to leave a treat for Santa. Especially if the elves are still wrapping gifts!

Follow Santa on a Santa Tracker – There are several apps and online websites that track Santa’s journey around the world on his way to your house. This has proven to be the best way to get kids to bed on Xmas Eve! They have to be asleep so Santa can actually come!!!

last minute - gifts

Last Minute Gifts

Sorry, I had to save the biggest task for last…

Last Minute Gifts Gift buying can actually take the longest time of all the tasks you have left to do. Remember that the most memorable gifts you can give are possibly to most unexpected. A generic gift card is nice for most folks, and I certainly love to get a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, but have you ever thought to give a gift certificate book to the local car wash, or how about the local movie theater? Gas cards are also a nice treat that most folks might not think of.

Keep in mind that people who get gifts from many folks (teachers, bus drivers, hair dressers) might very well appreciate even the ‘generic’ gift card over a tchotchke (aka chachki) item like a Worlds Greatest Teacher mug filled with hot chocolate fixings… although the hot chocolate might be nice, they really don’t need 30 mugs from this Christmas alone….

Here is a list of the people you may want to remember at this time of year:

Hostesses

School Teachers

Religion Teachers

Bus Drivers

Nanny/Babysitters

Cleaning Lady

Postal Worker

Garbage Removal

Hair Dresser

Door Man

Parents

In-Laws

Kids (from parents)

Kids (from Santa)

Friends

Co-Workers/Boss

Grab Bag Gifts (Gift Exchanges)

Don’t forget to have a few extra gifts stashed away for that awkward exchange when someone hands you a gift and you just weren’t prepared to give them something…. some items that you can have ready include – bottle of wine, gift cards, tin of cookies and nice ornaments. Go as far as actually wrapping these gifts (including a bow) and marking them with a post it note with the contents. This will help to disguise the fact that you didn’t think there would be a gift exchange with them this year….

Merry Xmas-Happy New Year from BGP

This family friendly blog is provided by www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com.  We specialize in high quality, affordable Baptismal gowns, rompers & suits, First Communion dresses, girls headpieces and boy’s suits.  In addition, we have a full line of Confirmation robes for churches to choose from with sizes to fit any size Confirmation candidate.

5 Tips to Help Control the Paper You Kind of Need to Have Around

26 Sep

There are so many blog posts and tips out there with pictures of these beautifully organized offices – like this one:

beautiful home office

Or perfectly organized filing cabinets – like this one:

organized files

Or worse yet, perfectly organized offices and file cabinets that are also color coded – like these:

color coded files

organized office

Of course, I look at these types of pictures often and dream of a day when my life might be this organized.  Unfortunately, life is happening too fast around me to have the time it would take to transform my world – or at least the world in the drawers of the desk in our office to be as asthetically pleasing as they are functional.  Honestly, being a busy mom and business owner, I’m just happy when I know where the $10 coupon to JCPenney is, or where the receipt is for the Little League Banquet that we need to produce at the door.  For now, I have to be OK knowing that my phone bill’s for the last 2 (or more) years are sitting in a file folder – just not a beautifully color coded file …

That being said, I have some VERY EASY and VERY LOW TECH solutions that you may be able to adopt in your house to try and control the most important pieces of paper that suddenly become so elusive right when you need them.

Tip #1:  Where to corral the tickets and invitations

Supplies Needed:

1 cup hook

1 binder clip

The inside of a kitchen cabinet

After RSVP’ing to an invitation, or getting tickets to an event we will be attending, I have 1 place in our house where they go – clipped to our family calendar inside a cabinet door in the kitchen.

tickets and invitations

Tip #2:  How to keep the misc papers and coupons handy in your purse

Supplies Needed:

1 binder clip

Of all the low tech options you will see out there, this is possibly the most basic option – yet – it is VERY effective.  I walked around for years with various pieces of paper scattered about my purse – big and small.  Just keeping them all together with a binder clip automatically keeps my purse so much more organized.  And when the other moms seem to be digging around looking for a practice schedule or a school notice, I can produce one on demand.

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Tip #3:  How to keep gift card and excess credit cards together

Supplies Needed:

1 zip top sandwich bag

OK, so I know I said in tip #2 that it was possibly the most basic option – but now I realize that this tip is  even more basic.  Some people may not have binder clips in their house, but I’m willing to bet that any busy mom on the go has a box of zip top sandwich bags in their kitchen.

One of the things I hate is when my wallet gets really overloaded.  When it does, I can’t seem to find anything at all – and depending on what purse I am using, it barely fits.

My solution for keeping all the miscellaneous gift cards and store credit cards I have is your run of the mill zip top sandwich bag.

Gift and Credit Cards

Tip #4:  How to keep paint chips, rosters and business cards with you

Supplies Needed:

1 plastic gift card holder

Several years ago, my son’s school sold gifts cards as a fundraiser.  For $1 they also sold these plastic sleeves to hold your gift cards.  Not thinking I would ever use it, I did end up buying one.  Looking back, that plastic holder has not left my purse in the last 7 ½ years…

On the left hand side there are 3 plastic sleeves that hold gift cards.  Since I use the super technical “sandwich bag” for my gift cards nowadays, I use these sleeves for various business cards – the Pediatric dentist, the Sports Medicine doctor that took care of my sons wrist, etc.  I also use it for various cards that I rarely use and my husbands business cards.

The right hand side has one big compartment – I think it was for various restaurant certificates in the program.  I use it to carry along rosters for my sons football team and paint chips for various rooms in our home.  These chips come in quite handy whenever I am in stores looking to buy something for our home.

paint chips, rosters and business cards

Tip #5:  Receipts, receipts, and more receipts

Supplies Needed:

1 wallet

2 plastic page protectors

1 pleather holder thingy… obviously not the technical term – see picture below

The one item of paper that seems to end up everywhere – besides the mail in my house – are receipts.

Reasons you should hold onto receipts:

Some can be discarded right away – like if you buy a pack of gum or some groceries

Some need to be held onto until you are sure you aren’t returning whatever it is you bought

Some need to be kept until the gift is given and the recipient is happy with it

Some should be held until you reconcile your credit card statement (I wish we did this in my house, but we don’t)

Some should be held because the store (or company) has a really generous return policy – like Home Depot – if a plant dies within a year you can return it for a new one

Some should be held onto so you know what and how much to buy next time – example – our landscaping rocks

Some should be held for tax purposes

Some should be held for business reasons

I could go on and on…

As long as you have a system – and realistic reasons for holding on to these annoying little pieces of paper – receipts don’t have to take over your life.

I always keep the receipts in my wallet until I am home – if they end up in shopping bags they tend to get lost easier:

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Business receipts get put into plastic sleeves that go in a business binder until they are reconciled:

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Home receipts are stored in our ‘pleather holder thingy’ until it can be either thrown away, filed for tax purposes or filed within the appropriate file (like the landscaping folder).

home receipts

I hope you can take at least one of these tips to make your life easier.

Do you guys have any quick and easy tips to corral the day to day paper we are all faced with?  Please share your ideas or tips by commenting on this post.

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com.  We specialize in Baptismal, First Communion and Confirmation apparel for boys and girls.

Please feel free to visit our website or send us an e-mail at Support@BaptismalGownsPlus.com to let us know what you think.

Heat Wave… How to Stay Safe from De-hydration

18 Jul

It seems like the whole country is battling a heat wave – and it’s not over yet.  With the temperature expected to hit 96 degrees on Thursday and feel like 105 degrees here in CT, it makes you wonder what you can do to stay safe?

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We ended up in the emergency room after baseball practice a few weeks ago with my son.  It was a very hot spell (not sure if it was during an actual heat wave or not), and he was dehydrated.  Since then, we have obviously been taking a lot of precautions to be sure it doesn’t happen again.

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I am not claiming to be any type of medical professional, nor am I attempting to give medical advice to anyone, but in the hopes that you or your family don’t suffer the same fate, here are some tips and tricks we have learned along the way.

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Symptoms of Dehydration (per the Mayo Clinic)

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:

Dry, sticky mouth

Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual

Thirst

Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens

Few or no tears when crying

Dry skin

Headache

Constipation

Dizziness or lightheaded

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

Extreme thirst

Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults

Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes

Lack of sweating

Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber

Sunken eyes

Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold

In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head

Low blood pressure

Rapid heartbeat

Rapid breathing

No tears when crying

Fever

In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

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Tips and Tricks to avoid getting dehydrated:

You need to hydrate well BEFORE you participate in any demanding physical activity.  If you will be out in the heat and will be active, you really need to start hydrating that whole day – and possibly start the day before if you will be active for an extended period of time.

Before exercising, drink 1 to 3 cups of fluid – water is best.  And continue to drink fluids regularly during, and even after, the activity.

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Eating lots of water based fruits – like watermelon – counts toward your fluid intake during the day.  Avoid soda and caffeine based drinks.

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It’s important to eat well before you are active.  We have found that eating protein helps my son feel the best during his sports.  We have been known to grill chicken breast in the morning so he can eat it for breakfast before baseball.  His teammate told me that he had lamb chops for breakfast the other day before their ‘big game’.  He said he would have had mashed potatoes to go along with his lamb but his mom didn’t have time to cook them in the morning!  Like it’s not hard enough to get a well-balanced dinner on the table each night – now we need to do it in the morning too???  J

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If you are very thirsty while participating in an activity, you may already be dehydrated.  You need to start consuming liquids right away.  If you are dizzy (lightheaded) or you have a headache, you should try to drink Gatorade or even better, Pedialyte, to get the electrolytes back in your system quickly.  Pedialyte has less sugar than Gatorade, and more sodium.  WORD OF WARNING – Please don’t take my advice on this to be the final word… please check this out with your doctor before you start feeding your kids Pedialyte before they head out the door to play.  What I have read seems to indicate that this is meant for the most serious of athletes, or folks actually experiencing dehydration.

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VERSUS

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If possible, postpone your activities until it is cooler outside.  I actually saw a few people running yesterday in the hottest part of the day.  I know folks are loyal to their exercise program, but really?  There must be some other alternative….

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Swimming in pools, lakes or the ocean can easily dehydrate folks.  While playing in the water, folks tend to drink less than they should and they risk getting dehydrated in the process – physical activity, high temperatures and less access to beverages is the recipe for dehydrating your body.

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Stay cool everyone – and stay safe out there!

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com

Please feel free to visit our website or send us an e-mail at Support@BaptismalGownsPlus.com to let us know what you think.

Summer Sports – Survival Guide – Post #3

11 Jul

One of the best things about kids being on a team is seeing them start as a bunch of individuals and seeing them build friendships throughout the season and really come together as a team.  Kids make friends so easily when they share common interests.  A little help from coaches and parents can go a long way in helping this process along.  A team that plays together stays together.  In this post I’d like to share some of the things that my son’s baseball team did to turn individual boys into friends.

Making New Friends

Parents talking at practice/parties – Parents and kids are both required to dedicate themselves to the team.  Kids are required to be at every practice and game (commitment is for 7 days a week).  The fact that every family supports the kids is a wonderful example of how we as parents are committed to the team and shows the kids that they should also be as dedicated.  One of the biggest examples of this is the fact that many parents actually bring their kids to practice and stay for the 2+ hours watching every practice.  Many friendships among the parents begin during these practice times.

parents in bleachers

Team Van – Our team mom was able to secure a 15 passenger van that she decorated with the kid’s names & jersey numbers as well as ‘Berlin All Stars’ (we live in Berlin, CT).  We meet at our home field before every game and all the kids piled into the van to ride together.  The kids love to get to travel together and it showed a real team presence as we drove up to the field in a decorated van.  The coach would give the kids a pep talk while they were in the van before we left our home field and revved the kids up for the ride.

van1

Team Song – Each year the kids come up with a popular song that they all sing in the van on the way to the games.  Last year the ‘team song’ was “Call me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.  The kids had the best time with this song because this was a song that the Harvard baseball team had made up some arm movements to go with the song.  Each day, the kids would sing and ‘dance’ in their seats on the way to every game.  Our kids had the best time with this song!

singing in van

 

Equipment Truck – As a simple form of team unity, my husband would pile all of the kid’s baseball bags and the team equipment in the back of his pickup truck and follow the team van to get to the games.  The kids would pile out of the van and go over to the equipment truck to get their gear.  This is something that didn’t go unnoticed by the other teams…

equipment truck

 

Caravan to the games for parents that could travel early – In addition to the Team Van and the Equipment Truck, we have a Caravan of parents that drive behind these vehicles to get to the games.  This shows part of our families’ commitment to the team because we travel to games together at least 2 hours before game time.  Many parents need to leave work very early (like taking a ½ vacation day) to travel to every weekday game.

caravan of cars

“Fan Shirts” – One of the best ways to show team unity is for the fans to show their team spirit with team shirts.  Last year the mom’s on our team got matching All Star tank tops when our kids won the District championship.  We wore these tanks at every game while the team played on in the next round of play.  The funny thing is, the dads were far too superstitious to wear fan shirts.  They had to wear same shirt they had been wearing and even had to stand in same order next to each other at fence as long as kids were winning…)  This year we ordered fan shirts before the season started with their kids name and number on the back so now our dad’s can wear the same clothes AND show their team spirit!

fan shirt frontfan shirt back

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going out to dinner – One of the easiest ways for team building was the picking a local restaurant and a bunch of families go to dinner after the games.  Since we would meet so early before the games, everyone would be starving by the time the game ended.  Since there would be so many of us, we would generally get seated at multiple tables.  The kids would all sit together and the parents would sit nearby.  This gave the kids time to decompress and relive the game and the parents would have the same opportunity to relax and have some fun.

Practice dinners – Because of the time commitment of practices every day with practices ending after 7:30 pm, we have been organizing dinners after practices.  Each night, one family organizes a dinner to bring to the field so the families can eat dinner right after practice.  What a huge help it is to not have to start making a dinner after 8:00pm!

team dinners

Pool parties / Lake House party – Summer means hot weather, and summer fun.  Weekend games are often followed up by a family offering to have the families back to their house for a pool party.  These parties are often kept simple by ordering pizzas – allowing the kids to relax and be kids in a pool.  The adults can hang out and talk while enjoying a few drinks.

pool party (2)

Sharing Memories – One of the easiest ways to capture the memories is to share pictures with the team families on a shared website.  I have used Shutterfly for years and have set up a free ‘Share Site’ for many of the teams my son has been on through the years (this is also great to do if you are a room parent for your child’s elementary school class – lots of nice features for a classroom).  At the end of the season you can easily pull together a commemorative book for families to buy, or to give as coaches gifts.

Shutterfly Share Site

What are some of your favorite ways to bring a team together?  Share them with us by commenting on this post.

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com

Please feel free to visit our website or send us an e-mail at Support@BaptismalGownsPlus.com to let us know what you think.

Summer Sports – Survival Guide – Post #2

27 Jun

Beat the Heat

Possibly one of the most difficult things to deal with during summer sports is the weather.  Protecting the kids (and spectators) from the high heat of the summer is so very important. My family found out just how important it is to ‘plan in advance’ for hydrating for summer sports.  This past weekend, my son was invited to an End of the School Year pool party.  From there, he went to baseball practice. By the end of practice, he was lightheaded, nauseous & vomiting.  From the ball field, we went straight to the emergency room for IV fluids….

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We just had 4 days of 90+ degree heat in CT, and it’s still June.  The real heat usually hits at the end of July and into August.  Here are some simple tips to help you survive the summer.

Wet cloths – It seems so simple, but wet cloths can be very effective to cool folks off on the hottest of days.  I went to Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest stack of washcloths they had – that way if they are lost, it’s no big deal.  Before practices or games, I put each washcloth in a Ziplock sandwich bag and add water.  I stick these washcloths in a cooler.  When needed, these washcloths are used to wipe down your forehead or can be draped on your neck.

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Cold Packs for injuries – This is a Pinterest find that I love… these cold packs are very clever because they are so easy to make and are so versatile.  In a Ziplock sandwich bag, combine 3 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol and freeze.  The rubbing alcohol doesn’t let the water freeze completely so you end up with something that resembles an Icee frozen drink.  These are great for injuries, bug bites or the like.

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Hydration – After my intro paragraph about ending up in the ER with my son for dehydration– enough said….  For each game, our team mom arranges to have coolers filled with water and Gatorade for the team in the dugout.  This is to supplement the water jugs each parents sends with their kids.  At all of the fields we play at, there are fully stocked concession stands so parents either pack their own coolers or buy their beverages at the field.

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Shade – Depending on the location of the All Star games, some of the fields we visit have some sort of shady spots, but others don’t.  This summer we will be playing at a facility with no shade at all.  Knowing this, my husband got a pop up tent for Father’s Day.  These tents go up quite easily and even come with a storage bag on wheels for easy travel.

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Sun screen – I think it goes without saying that everyone should wear sunscreen while outside for any period of time.  My son and many of the other boys tend to resist getting sunscreen applied.  A couple of years ago, I was insistent that my son let me put sunscreen on him as they were getting ready to warm up.  One of the coaches asked if he could borrow the sunscreen.  As he was putting it on, one of the other moms asked if I would put sunscreen on her son as he was also resisting.  Since I wasn’t his mom, he didn’t dare say no to me.  Before I knew it, before each game, I was lining the boys up to apply sunscreen on them before each game that year.  It became so automatic, they would see me coming with the spray bottle and would stop what they were doing and put their arms out to get sprayed.

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Bug Spray – with the summer, come the bugs.  For evening games, or games after a rain, make sure you have bug spray at the ready.  As with the sunscreen, I have been known to line the kids up before a baseball game to put bug spray on them.  One of the moms on the team swears by the ‘Off’ personal bug repellant fans because they work and there is no sticky bug spray all over you.  I’ve never used them before, but I did buy them recently to try them out.

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Working for a Living

Just because your kids are playing summer sports, doesn’t mean you can give up going to work for the summer.  As we tend to travel as a team and caravan to each game, we often have to meet at our home ball field in the middle of the afternoon to travel to an evening game.  Here are few ideas that may help you ‘stay connected’ with work while ‘staying connected’ with your summer athlete:

Smart phone with a data plan – Anyone with a smart phone knows the possibilities that their phone provides.  Business apps and internet access help make doing business on the go a reality.

iPad / Laptop – In order to actually do business, you may need to have an iPad or a laptop handy so you can do more than just answer phone calls.  I usually line up a project or two that I can work on offline while we are waiting to travel to a game, or while the team is warming up.  Since ball fields don’t generally have a lot of electric outlets lying around, make sure you have a fully charged battery before you leave home!

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Hot spot – For the most productivity, you can get a ‘hot spot’ on your Smart phone.  This ‘hot spot’ will be able to provide you internet access wherever you are.

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Business Phone – To be sure you don’t miss any important business calls, be sure to forward your business phone to your cell phone.  Of course, depending on the types of calls you get in your business, this may not be appropriate.  It’s one thing to answer calls from your boss or co-workers since chances are, they will know where you are.  It would not really be appropriate to answer calls from customers – it wouldn’t make the best impression for customers to hear parents cheering in the background while they are trying to conduct business with you.

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What are some of your favorite tricks to beat the heat?  Or work outside the office?  Share them with us by commenting on this post.

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com

Please feel free to visit our website or send us an e-mail at Support@BaptismalGownsPlus.com to let us know what you think.

Summer Sports – Survival Guide – Intro Post

22 Jun

School just got out, but Summer Sports has already started.  What??? Yup, you heard me, summer sports begin before school gets out!!!!

school-s-out-written-on-a-chalkboard

Translation: parents that commit to summer sports commit to give up any chance of a normal summer vacation.

In order to participate in All Star Baseball in our town, the parents must sign a contract that you are committing to the team and you agree that your child cannot miss a practice or a game for the duration of the teams eligibility to play.  Aka – the better the team is, the longer your child will play and the longer your baseball commitment is.

sign contract

We’ve been through this before so it’s not new to us…. last summer, my son was chosen to play on our town’s 10 year old All Star baseball team.  The teams were declared before school ended and daily practices start THAT SAME DAY.  Lucky for us, the team did well and won their District championship.  This put us on the path to play in the Sectionals for our state.  They were eventually eliminated from the tournament so they turned around and played in a local tournament – you know, for good measure…

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Baseball finished at the very end of July – but NO WORRIES, Football started on August 1st.  But that commitment is only 4 days a week.  Can you say ‘Long Weekend’ for a family summer vacation?

weekend getaway

This may drive some folks crazy, but we consider ourselves fortunate for the opportunity for our son to experience the honor of getting to represent our town in the best of baseball.  What this does mean though is family life changes quite a bit, and we are more ‘on the road’ than ever.  Between the busy schedule and the heat of summer, we have come up with some ideas that make life a little easier – for all the baseball families involved.

baseball

baseball (Photo credit: theseanster93)

In the next few posts, I will share with you some of the things that worked for us last year and will hopefully help you survive the summer sports season – or any other summer activities you and your family participates in….

Checklist

Stay Tuned for our suggestions, and we are anxiously hoping to hear from you with tips & tricks you have employed to survive the Summer Season!!!

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com

 Please feel free to visit our website or send us an e-mail at Support@BaptismalGownsPlus.com to let us know what you think.

CAPTURE THE MEMORIES, NOT JUST THE MOMENT

25 Apr

by Dawn Gorneault

Let me start by saying that I am by no means a professional photographer. I am just an average mom who likes to take pictures of her children, family and friends. I am usually the one lugging the camera bag around during sporting events, vacations and holidays. I take great pride and joy in capturing moments and sharing them with others. While I am a fan of the traditional “posed” picture for family vacations and holidays, I really do enjoy those memory triggering, emotion capturing shots. I thought I would share a couple of my favorites with you, and hopefully they will inspire your creative side and you can take some pictures of your own to share with us to help inspire myself and others as well.

My first pictures are from when my family and I went to Hershey Gardens in Hershey Pennsylvania. It was my family, my sister’s family and my parents. I will start by saying that the gardens are beautiful, and if you ever get the chance to go, I recommend it as a nice relaxing day for your vacation.

What first caught my epeople pics (12)ye, was when my kids were wandering through the rose gardens. There were dozens of rose buspeople pics (7)Bhes in all different colors. I watched as my children passed by one rose to lean and smell another. I grabbed my camera and focused on their noses in the buds as they inhaled the aroma of the flower and enjoyed not only the beauty of the rose, but the smell as well.people pics (8)

Continuing through the gardens, we encountered many flowers, trees, shrubs and fountains.  Many photo opportunities came about and I took advantage of all of them. But my most favorite shot from the gardens is my “Family Tree” photo. We came upon this grand tree towards the end of the garden. The large branches hung down to the ground. There was a “doorway” into the tree, to get to the trunk. As we were all entering the tree, and climbing on the massive branches underneath, I couldn’t help but think of the photo opportunity available to us with this tree. I could have my family hide in the branches of the tree with only their heads or faces being seen and take a picture from outside the tree. The end product was more than I could ever imagine. This picture hangs in my dining room and when new guest come over to visit, they get to explore the picture to see if they can locate all the members of my family in my “Family Tree

people pics (121)

My next picture is from one of our many vacations to Myrtle Beach. This destination has become a favorite of our family. We have gone therePictureb 152hh for the past 5 years and I can honestly say that we have had a different experience each time we have gone. On the day we took this picture, the husbands and the boys went to play golf, so the girls (and Grampa) went to the pier. We walked along the pier and did some shopping, played in the arcade and had some ice cream. As we walked further down the pier, we decided to go down to the water. It splashed at our feet at every wave. We started to play and run and jump around in the water. I handed my camera to my Dad and told him to take our picture as we all tried to jump at the same time. I will say that it took some time for us to get the perfect shot, but we had a great experience while doing it, and it is all we could talk about later when we meet up with the guys. So much so, that the next year, they boys had to take one just like it.

The last picture is from another family vacationimage102. My parents wanted to take all their grandchildren to the Magical World of Disney. So we packed up our families and headed south for a week in Disney. With three boys and two girls in tow, we headed off bright and early for Magic Kingdom. My son was the only one who hadn’t been before, but like many say, the Disney experience changes as kids get older. So the other kids were just as excited because they could now ride the rides they weren’t tall enough for before or weren’t interested in before. After a long day of character meet and greets, long lines for rides, eating on the go and many, many pictures having been taken, I felt like I missed that picture that would spark that memory and sum up the day in a single shot. The sun was starting to go down. We came around the corner and there it was…the castle, lights on, sunset sky in the background, and the kids looking at it in awe. They were looking and pointing. They knew that that was the symbol of Disney and I grabbed my camera and took the shot. I got it, the shot to sum up the excitement and magic of the day. It hangs proudly in my house and every time I look at it a slideshow of memories of that day passes through my mind and a smile comes across my face.

My kids are now 12, 15 and 18. These days go by quick, and I am so happy that I have been inspired to take pictures that spark these memories. And I hope that I can inspire you to do the same.

You can share photos and ideas with us to keep our inspirations alive as well by commenting on this post.

 

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Dinner? Who has time for dinner? It’s baseball season!

18 Apr

As the weather turns warm and the trees begin to bud, our thoughts turn to the outside… and baseball – or soccer – or lacrosse – or whatever outdoor activity your kids happen to be involved in this spring.  And as most youth sports are coached by parent volunteers, these practices and games are often scheduled to take place after work hours – right in the middle of dinner time!

dinner time clock

As most busy parents are familiar with, being organized is how they survive, and dinner time at a ball field is no exception.  As someone who runs the concession stand at our Little League field, there are a lot of hot dogs and cheeseburgers for dinner in our family this time of year.  For families that don’t have the option of a freshly cooked dinner, or refuse to feed their kids fast food night after night (remember, kids are what they eat…), I have pulled together some dinner options that are good for the family on-the-go.

dance class pictureskids playing baseball

The Crock Pot

When I think of a crock pot, I think of sitting down with a steaming bowl of stew or chili and a chunk of crusty bread.  Don’t think you need to put away the crock pot just because winter is over.  For the busy family, a little planning and a crock pot can be a big time-saver on the busiest of nights.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with a side of coleslaw and corn on the cob – I always use the McCormick Slow Cookers BBQ Pulled Pork seasoning mix to give me a head start with seasoning the pulled pork.  In addition to the seasoning mix and the boneless pork shoulder roast, you will need ketchup, brown sugar and cider vinegar.  The best part of this meal is that it freezes really well so don’t be afraid to freeze any leftovers.

BBQ Pulled Pork mix          pulled pork sandwich

Southwestern Chicken with a side of tortillas and avocado – This easy recipe starts with frozen chicken breast!  It seems like when its dinner time in my house, the chicken is always frozen…  Of course this frozen chicken would have to come out in the morning when you are assembling the ingredients in the crock pot.  This dish calls for frozen chicken breasts, canned corn, canned black beans, small jar of salsa, top with cream cheese at the very end.

southwestern chicken

Sweet and Sour Meatballs with a side salad – Another great ‘cheat’ recipe because I start with the frozen meatballs and add grape jelly and chili sauce.  Enough said.

sweet and sour meatballs

Salads and Wraps

Salads and wraps are an easy, light way to have dinner on the run.  A little prep work can go a long way toward making these meals fast.  Prepped ingredients can be assembled in just a few minutes to get dinner ready so you are out the door in no time.  Individual containers allow family members to eat when they have time – your daughter can eat during her brother’s baseball practice and he can eat during her dance class.  These individual meals allows you to customize the ingredients per person – I love Craisins and cheese in my salads, my son only wants cheese and my husband doesn’t like either.

chopping vegetables

Chicken Caesar Salad wraps are a ‘go to’ quick meal for our family.  My shortcut for this meal is to buy a chicken that is already roasted from Sam’s Club.  Their roasted chickens are the same price as a raw one, and I don’t happen to have a rotisserie oven at my house so it’s probably healthier than if I cooked one myself…

chicken caesar salad wrap

Cobb Salad is quickest to make when you have bacon bits made from real bacon or you can pre-cook bacon yourself in advance, crumble it and put it in the freezer until you need it.  I also make a bunch of hard boiled eggs early in the week which are also great for breakfasts on the go.

cobb salad

Chef Salad is traditionally made with ham, turkey and roast beef along with Swiss cheese & hardboiled eggs.  Any combination of meats and cheeses can be substituted – an easy meal to customize.

chef salad

What are some of your favorite quick-fix meal ideas?  Share them with us by commenting on this post.

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of www.BaptismalGownsPlus.com Let's Get Blogging!!!

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